Chris Nolan
Chris Nolan

More than 1200 attendees jammed the sold-out fourth annual session of the Produced By Conference on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City this weekend for panels and mixers that included some of the industry’s biggest players. Panels and mentoring roundtables were held throughout the day; still, many regular attendees I talked to said that for them, the real draw is the mixers and the chance to network.   Some of the folks who paid as much as $1000 for the conference wished there could have been a final party when the event wrapped late Sunday afternoon. Are you listening, PGA?  

Much of the talk on the panels took the form of shared anecdotes meant to encourage, inspire or enlighten others in the ranks.  Herewith, ten takeaways from the weekend:

1. Foreign sales have become hugely more important.  Overall film revenues for 2011 were 69 percent foreign, 31 percent domestic, said producer Michael Shamberg (“Pulp Fiction”) at the panel “Game Changers: Where Movies Should Be Going.”  That compares to 86 percent domestic, 14 percent foreign in 1988, one of the years he cited for comparison.  Meanwhile, the overall size of worldwide revenues has more than tripled in that time.  Bringing in a foreign sales consultant early to ensure that a package will appeal to foreign buyers can be key. 

produced by conference
Produced By Conference

“A good foreign sales agent is your best friend and greatest ally,” said Sarah Green, producer of Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” and several more Malick projects in the pipeline.  Green says she works closely with Glen Basner of Film Nation “throughout the process.”  “We run the scripts past him, the casting decisions, and he gives feedback on what a given element is going to bring to it.  You can be surprised by the different value that actors have in foreign markets compared to domestic.”  

Added producer Mark Johnson (“The Chronicles of Narnia"):  “The international market is climbing and climbing.  We have really switched to serving that, because it’s what’s growing.”   This shift matters for smaller pictures too, said several producers, since foreign sales are a way to finance pictures with artistic merit that the studios aren’t making.

2. Development money is harder to come by.  “Financing for development has dried up,” said producer Doug Wick (“The Great Gatsby”), also on the “Game Change” panel.  “And if you can get it, it often isn’t until later in the process.”  But wait - some producers still have it. Said producer Walter Parkes (“Flight,” “Men In Black 3”), speaking on a panel about global production,  at Parkes + Macdonald/Image Nation, “we have a development fund that allows us to independently and aggressively develop material.”